Saturday, December 3, 2011

'The River' - Conflict

Good vs. Bad

Everything and everybody possesses both good and bad qualities. The river is deemed as good when it is likened to a baby and a singer. A negative spin is put on when the river makes an abrupt 180 degree turn and becomes comparable to a monster. 

'The River' - Literary Devices


#Point of view
-Third person
(The use of third person pronoun, 'he')


The speaker catalogs the various qualities of the river carefully.

The meditative tone of the speaker puts the reader into deep thought about the qualities of the river and how it translates to humans.

#Poetic devices

1. End Rhyme
Lines 2 & 4 of every stanza rhymes.
~Stanza 1 : tramp, camp
~Stanza 2 : hill, still
~Stanza 3 : deep, keep
~Stanza 4 : hums, thumbs
~Stanza 5 : along, song
~Stanza 6 : vexed, next


Aural imagery = sense of hearing
'gurgles and hums' (stanza 4, line 2)
'echoes the notes of the song' (stanza 5, lines 3-4)

Visual imagery = sense of sight
'twists and turns' (stanza 2, line 3)
'buries down deep' (stanza 3, line 2)
'dances along' (stanza 5, line 2)
'gobbled up trees' (stanza 6, line 3)

3. Personification
The nature of the river described in the poem has been imparted with the attributes of human qualities such as 'a wanderer, a nomad, a tramp', 'a winder', 'a hoarder', 'a baby', 'a singer' and 'a monster'.

4. Metaphor
The river - man as he journeys through life.

5. Repetition
'The River' - repeated to give emphasis to the subject.

6. Simile
The River is likened to a baby, who sounds 'like he's happily sucking his thumbs'.

7. Symbol
The various qualities of the river are symbolic of the various qualities found in humans.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

'The River' - Figurative Meaning

Figurative Meaning

The river is a symbol for people. Like a river, people usually do not stay put in one place. This is especially evident in the Diaspora communities found all around the world. Just as the river is able to find a way 'through the valley and hill', people are usually able to move on in spite of their failures and successes. Neither the river not people are able to remain stagnant. Rivers need to flow to new areas and people are constantly entering new phases of their lives. The parallels between the river and people are further extended as both are hoarders who stash away the 'little treasures; that they want to keep. When the river is flowing calmly, the atmosphere is tranquil as evident by its sound which is similar to a baby 'happily sucking his thumbs'. This is an apt reminder for people to learn how to remain calm so that a soothing atmosphere can be maintained. Those who usually enjoy the outdoors are able to take delight in the splendour of the river much like how music lovers take pleasure in attending the concert of their favourite singer. This reminds us that to the world you may just be someone, but to someone, you may be the whole world. The river has its ugly side which is capable of mass destruction and claiming human lives which is not unlike some notorious tyrants known for genocide. 

'The River' - Literal Meaning

*The Title
'The River'
-A fluid thing - the river - is chosen as the title to represent the fluid nature of the river and people.

*Literal Meaning

First Stanza
The river can be found flowing at any place of the earth; therefore it is not exclusive to any one place.

Second Stanza
The river flows around valleys and hills as it cannot be stagnant.

Third Stanza
Objects that are sunk in the river usually tend to stay there.

Fourth Stanza
The sound of the river has a lulling effect.

Fifth Stanza
The sound of the River is much appreciated by many (though more so at the countryside).

Sixth Stanza
The River can be a destructive force which destroys trees and the speaker jokes that the reader may be the river's next victim.

Friday, November 11, 2011

'The River' - About the Poet

About the poet - Valerie Bloom

Valerie Bloom

Valerie Bloom was born in Jamaica and came to England in 1979.

She studied English with African and Caribbean Studies at the University of Kent at Canterbury.

She writes poetry in English and Jamaican patois for all ages, and has performed her work throughout the world, with many television and radio appearances. Her poetry is included in a number of anthologies and she tutors regularly for schools and colleges.

Her books include the Jamaican poetry collections Touch mi! Tell mi! (1983); andDuppy Jamboree and other Jamaican Poems (1991); Hot Like Fire (2002), a collection of poems in English and Jamaican patois; and more recently, Whoop an'Shout! (2003).

She has edited several collections of poetry such as On a Camel to the Moon and other poems about journeys (2001) and One River, Many Creeks: poems from all around the world (2003). Her children's novel, Surprising Joy, was published in 2003.

Valerie Bloom has been awarded an Honorary Masters Degree from the University of Kent, and lives in Kent. Her latest books are The Tribe and A Soh Life Goh, both published in 2008. In the same year, she was awarded an MBE for services to poetry.

Taken from: BritishCouncil

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The River by Valerie Bloom

The River by Valerie Bloom

The River's a wanderer, 
A nomad, a tramp, 
He doesn't choose one place
To set his camp.

The River's a winder,
Through valley and hill
He twists and he turns,
He just cannot be still.

The River's a hoarder,
And he buries down deep
Those little treasures
That he wants to keep.

The River's a baby,
He gurgles and hums,
And sounds like he's happily
Sucking his thumb.

The River's a singer,
As he dances along,
The countryside echoes
The notes of his song.

The River's a monster
Hungry and vexed,
He's gobbled up trees
And he'll swallow you next. 


*gobbled = to eat something quickly and greedily
(Bahasa Malaysia = membaham/menelan)
*gurgle = to make a bubbling sound in the throat, or say something with a bubbling sound in the throat
(Bahasa Malaysia = mengomel)
*hoarder = a person who collects and stores, often secretly, large amounts of things such as food or money for future use
(Bahasa Malaysia = orang yang suka menyimpan harta benda; selalunya untuk masa depan)
*hum = to sing with lips closed and without words
(Bahasa Malaysia = menderam/berdengung)
*swallow = to make food or drink go down your throat and towards your stomach
(Bahasa Malaysia = menelan)
*tramp = a homeless person who travels on foot, often begging for a living
(Bahasa Malaysia = pengemis)
*treasure = something of great value or worth
(Bahasa Malaysia = khazanah/harta karun)
*vexed = provoked to slight annoyance, anxiety or distress
(Bahasa Malaysia = panas baran)
*wanderer, nomad = somebody who drifts from place to place
(Bahasa Malaysia = pengembara)

Monday, October 31, 2011

'I Wonder' - Practice 2

Practice 2

State whether the following statements are True (T) or False (F).

1. The persona in this poem is an adult. __
2. This poem is about the wonders of nature. __
3. From the poem, we know that the persona is curious. __
4. The persona is wondering about the colour of the grass. __
5. The persona has never seen the wind. __
6. The persona wants to know why the birds build nests. __
7. The 'missing bit' in the poem refers to the stars. __
8. According to the poem, the shape of the moon is always the same. __
9. The word 'fluffy' in stanza 5 means 'light and soft'. __
10. The persona is anxious because Dad does not answer his questions. __

Sunday, October 30, 2011

'I Wonder' - Practice 1

Practice 1

Complete the passage below with suitable words from the poem. 

  In this poem, the persona asks many questions about nature. The wonders why the grass is _____ (1), and why he cannot see the _____ (2) although he can feel it. He is puzzled about who taught the _____ (3) to build their nests and how _____ (4) know when to stop growing. When he does not see the full _____ (5), he wants to know where the missing _____ (6) is. 

  During the day, he cannot see the _____ (7), so he wants to know who _____ (8) them at night and who causes _____ (9) to flash. The persona also wonders how the colourful _____ (10) appears in the _____ (11) and who hangs the fluffy _____ (12) up so high. 
  Finally, the persona wonders why his _____ (13) does not explain these things to him, and questions if his dad really knows the answers. 

Miss 니사: It's too easy, right? See you in Practice 2, then! =P

Saturday, October 22, 2011

'I Wonder' - Moral Values

I Wonder - Moral Values

1. One needs to be conscious and accept the limitations of human understanding. 

This poem carries a universal truth - the limitations of human understanding and our need to not only become conscious of it but to accept it as well. Despite the leaps and bounds in human advancement, the simple questions posed by a child do not have precise answers as evident in the last stanza, "Why is it now, do you suppose, that Dad won't tell me if he knows?" When we are aware of human limitations, we would not put on a pseudo-intellectual front which the speaker hints is put on by his father who believes that not having answers to the questions is a sign of weakness. Since the speaker's father is unable to swallow his ego, the speaker is then left to work out his queries on his own and thus begins to mull over whether his father actually knows the answers to his questions. Had the speaker's father been more accepting of his limitations, the speaker and his father would be able to communicate very openly. 

2. One needs to appreciate nature and be aware of their surroundings. 

The wonder, inquisitiveness, and childhood innocence of a child is superimposed on nature through the speaker to allow these qualities to manifest in nature. The manifestation of these qualities will allow one to appreciate nature more and increase their awareness of the natural environment around them. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

'I Wonder' - Theme

The inability of man's finite understanding in apprehending the infinite tone of mysteries that our world presents.

"The theory of everything" is seen by many scientists as the Holy Grail. Sadly, none can lay claim to knowing all that there is to know about life as there are many aspects of life which till this day remain a mystery to us. Christopher Morley says it best when he quips, "Life is a foreign language: all mispronounce it." The inability of man's finite understanding in apprehending the infinite tone of mysteries that our world presents is a prevalent theme that runs throughout the poem as the questions posed by the speaker have no definite answers. The poem culminates with the speaker wondering why his dad won't tell him the answers to his questions if he knew the answer. From this, it can be interpreted that even the speaker's father does not have the answers to the speaker's questions. 

'I Wonder' - Conflict

Childlike wonder and delight in the universe vs. jaded adults

Children have a natural curiosity for the world around them as we are shown through the repetition of the interrogative wh-words of the speaker who is assumed to be a child in this poem. Adults conversely have been around long enough and are no longer curious about the makeup of the world. Their focus has shifted from curiosity to that of survival. Represented by the speaker's father, adults are of the mind that answers to triviality are inconsequential. The father adopts a devil may care attitude towards the questions of his son and this subsequently leads the child to wonder why "Dad won't tell me, if he knows?"

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

'I Wonder' literary devices

I Wonder

  An inquisitive child who has a natural curiosity for the world.

#Point of view
  -First person 
    The title and the first two words of 'I Wonder' show us that the poem is told from a first person point of view.

   The speaker was describing the events that one can see out in the open space.

  The repetition of interrogative wh- words lends an inquisitive tone to 'I Wonder.'

  The inquisitive nature of the speaker incites the feeling of puzzlement in readers as there is a high possibility that many cannot answer the questions posed by the speaker. 

#Poetic Devices

1. Alliteration
 - grass - green
 - birds - build
 - tree  - take a rest

2. Direct speech
    Hearing the speaker's questions first hand gives readers a clearer picture of the challenging time that they will have in answering the speaker's questions thus intensifying the mood of puzzlement.

3. End rhyme
~Stanza 1 : green, seen
~Stanza 2: nest, rest
~Stanza 3: round, found
~Stanza 4: out, about
~Stanza 5: sky, high
~Stanza 6: suppose, knows

4. Imagery
    Visual imagery = sense of sight
    Grass, birds, trees, moon, stars, lightning, rainbows, and clouds. 

5. Personification
~the trees - have the ability to rest
~the stars - have the ability to blow out the light

6. Repetition
   The words, 'why' and 'who' are repeated twice and thrice respectively. The repetition of the interrogative wh- words reinforces that the speaker's curiosity is not just a fleeting fancy but is a matter that constantly bugs the speaker.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

'I Wonder' - Overview

Jeannie Kirby's 'I Wonder' consists of six couplets. This poem deals with the speaker's curiosity about the world around him/her. The speaker wonders about:

  • the colour of grass and the 'invisibility' of the wind.
  • the 'person' who trained the birds to create a nest and 'told the trees to take a rest'
  • the varying shape of the moon and the place where the missing piece of the moon can be found (when the moon that is sighted is not a full moon)
  • the illumination of the stars and lightning
  • the 'person' who painted the rainbow and placed the clouds at a high altitude
  • the reason the speaker's dad is withholding the answers to life's mysteries

I Wonder by Jeannie Kirby

I Wonder
Jeannie Kirby

I wonder why the grass is green,

And why the wind is never seen?

Who taught the birds to build a nest,

And told the trees to take a rest? 

O, when the moon is not quite round,

Where can the missing bit be found?

Who lights the stars, when they blow out,

And makes the lightning flash about?

Who paints the rainbow in the sky,

And hangs the fluffy clouds so high?

Why is it now, do you suppose, 

That Dad won't tell me, if he knows?


*flash = a sudden bright display of light, fire, or something bright 
(Bahasa Malaysia = pancaran)
*fluffy = light and soft
(Bahasa Malaysia = lembut dan gebu)
*lightning = a flash, or several flashes, of very bright light in the sky caused by electricity
(Bahasa Malaysia = kilat)
*wonder = to speculate or curious to know about something
(Bahasa Malaysia = hairan / tertanya-tanya)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

I Wonder

What does the phrase 'I Wonder' mean to you? What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you see the phrase? For me, the first thing that comes to my mind when I first heard the phrase  was 'Fool's Garden's Lemon Tree'.  

I'm sitting here in a boring room
It's just another rainy Sunday afternoon
I'm wasting my time, I got nothing to do
I'm hanging around, I'm waiting for you
But nothing ever happens -- and I wonder
I'm driving around in my car
I'm driving too fast, I'm driving too far
I'd like to change my point of view
I feel so lonely, I'm waiting for you
But nothing ever happens, and I wonder
I wonder how, I wonder why
Yesterday you told me 'bout the blue blue sky
And all that I can see is just a yellow lemon tree
I'm turning my head up and down
I'm turning, turning, turning, turning, turning around
And all that I can see is just a yellow (another) lemon tree
La, la da dee da
I'm sitting here, I miss the power
I'd like to go out taking a shower
But there's a heavy cloud inside my head
I feel so tired, put myself into bed
Where nothing ever happens -- and I wonder
Isolation is not good for me
I don't want to sit on a lemon tree
I'm stepping around in a desert of joy
Baby anyhow I'll get another toy
And everything will happen
and you'll wonder
And I wonder, wonder
I wonder how I wonder why
Yesterday you told me 'bout the blue, blue sky
And all that I can see
And all that I can see (dit dit dit)
And all that I can see is just a yellow lemon tree

Even though this song is no way related to Jeannie Kirby's 'I Wonder' poem, every time I hear the word 'I Wonder', this automatically comes to my mind. This is a great cover of Fool's Garden - Lemon Tree that I found recently by Miquel P. Senent. Enjoy! =)

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Look up the term literature in any current encyclopedia and you will be struck by the vagueness of its usage as well as by an inevitable lack of substance in the attempts to define it. In most cases, literature is referred to as the entirety of written expression, with the restriction that not every written document can be categorized as literature in the more exact sense of the word. The definitions, therefore, usually include additional adjectives such as "aesthetic" or "artistic" to distinguish literary works from texts of everyday use such as telephone books, newspapers, legal documents, and scholarly writings. Etymologically, the Latin word "litteratura" is derived from "littera" (letter), which is the smallest element of alphabetical writing. (Klarer, M., 2004)